Of Bars, Booze, and Bartending - Proving "Coughlin's Law" Invalid Since Feb '05

Friday, April 03, 2009

The Cig Tax

Smoky Bar
There's a new federal Cigarette Tax that has been causing much disorder and consternation and wringing-of-hands in blogging circles.  So, being in a Smoking Industry, how can I resist to comment?
For a little bit, I worked at a club in a college town, with a college audience. They were the most horrendous tippers of all time, and our owner's pricing didn't help matters much.  If all well drinks are 75 cents, looks like the bartender is getting a quarter a drink... if they don't slide that sneaky quarter off the tacky chrome bar before you catch them, that is.
At this particular bar, my weekend partner-in-bartending-crime became so annoyed at the Quarter Tip, that one of us started chucking the coin at the patron's head, the moment he turned his back.  I imagine if I were to talk to this bartender, we'd argue for hours about who came up with it, but we just did it, both of us.  The place was so loud and disorienting and dark to anyone not used to its glaring obsenity in the full light, while cutting limes and stocking beer, that you weren't about to be surprised at a strange "what the fuck was that" on the top of your head. They'd usually turn around, and that was the best part; that's why we did it.  To see the looks on their face if they turned around.
I'd say 45% of them turned around.
One of the bouncers called it "The Dick Tax." It wasn't fair, and it wasn't nice. But in hindsight I'm still thinking, well, seriously, college kids, leave fifty cents on a deeply-discounted 75-cent drink, and let's call it even.
At the very end of the night, we'd bust ass to get out of there, and one of us would take to sweeping the huge dancefloor.  It was a job you couldn't trust to a barback.. because we knew the floor was a quarter-mine.
We'd usually net about $60 total in retrieved thrown quarters per Saturday night. 
Another little racket we'd run that was far more profitable was "The Cig Tax." We'd pitch in and purchase cartons of cigarettes, usually one carton of Camel Kings and one carton of Camel Light 100s, and leave them on the back bar. Whenever a patron would (and they always would) ask, "Hey, bartender, do you have a smoke?  Can I bum a smoke?"  We'd say, "I'll sell you one for a quarter." And in the course of an evening, we'd sell the two packs out shortly before closing time, 40 cigarettes easy in a night, for a net of $5.00 profit each per night, and loads of happy, smoky customers.
(Bartenders can go broke by letting guest bum all their smokes, you know.)
I don't know what nightclub bartenders are doing now, but with the new federal tobacco tax combined with nationwide state tax increases, where I live, a pack of name-brand cigs is now around $6.00.  
I hope the nightclub bartenders of the present day are wise enough to know to charge $1.00 a cig at their bar.  There's always money to be made in the rackets.
Woke up, got out of bed 
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up, I noticed I was late
Found my coat, and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat
Found my way upstairs and had a smoke
And somebody spoke, and I went into a dream 
The Beatles, "A Day In The Life"
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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

That's It - Vernon Manor Shuts Doors

Photo - Cincinnati Enquirer

For some reason, I was just hoping it wouldn't come to pass, but, of course it has. The beloved Vernon Manor has closed. A very good, and poignant, and frankly depressing piece in the Enquirer:

The Vernon Manor served its last meal Tuesday morning - and there wasn't a dry eye in the place. So ended 85 years of the landmark hotel, which hosted presidents, Beatles, hall of famers and scenes from "Rain Man."
And so it goes. Good luck out there to you, the great and unforgettable staff of The Vernon Manor. I hope many pictures in the final days were taken, because everything is changing, and we need to be sure that we don't forget...

Closing time, time for you to go out, go out into the world
Closing time, turn the lights up over every boy and every girl
Closing time, one last call for alcohol, so finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time, you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here

I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
I know who I want to take me home
Take me home

- Semisonic, "Closing Time"

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